Roger's Postings

Saturday, April 14, 2012

John 20:19-23.             "Peace be with you"                           15/4/12

 (19)  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" {20} After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. {21} Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." {22} And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. {23} If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." {24} Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. {25} So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." {26} A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" {27} Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." {28} Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" {29} Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." {30} Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. {31} But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

"Peace be with you!' That's the risen Lord Jesus’ message to each one of us here today. The Jesus who died on the cross for us has risen and now comes to us to assure us that his peace is now there for us all: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation is extended to us. What joy is ours! What encouragement this is to us as we live in difficult times for those who are Christians. Easter surely enables us to go forward with confidence and certainty, no matter how tough life may be.

Imagine it - locked away in fear for one's own life. Afraid that they too might be arrested and put to death for being associated with this Jesus. They have already lost the one great hope in life that they thought might be there for them; so now there was a very uncertain future ahead for them. And they were afraid and hiding away from the world.

This was the situation for the disciples on that first Easter day, before Jesus appeared in their presence. But isn't that so often our situation as well: afraid! Afraid of facing life and its hassles, sickness and death. Struggling with the fact that God seems so far from his church today, as it becomes more and more liberal and as its focus shifts further and further from Christ and the importance of his death on the cross for forgiveness and life. So often we try to ignore and shut out the problems and threats that face us; not wanting to get involved; hoping that we will somehow survive it all. We close ourselves off from the rest of the world, in our own  little self-righteous world; Walling ourselves in, with our work and other activities; closing the door of our life and our personality so that others can't get close. Very much, we look to the future with uncertainty; Spiritually, socially, politically, financially and in many other ways.

I am sure that we all have our doubts and fears; sometimes even wondering if it is all for real. Perhaps the world out there is right after all; that this is just one big game of chance; that selfishness and greed, no matter what the cost is the way to go; put others down so that they can not and will not be competition. It is all there around us and within; and so often we are tempted to think that maybe that is the only way.

So we join those first disciples and Christians right down through the ages with their doubts and fears. We all struggle in this way to a greater or lesser degree; trying to shut ourselves off from those fears, doubts and uncertainties. Trying to close those threats out of our lives; pushing them away; whatever.

But when we think of those early disciples and ourselves, in this regard; closing ourselves off does not take the problems and dangers away. In fact it only increases our fears and uncertainties. If the soldiers wanted to get the disciples a couple of locked doors wouldn't keep them out. Trying to avoid sickness, death and most other threats will not overcome our fears and doubts. All we are doing is shutting ourselves off from the openings and opportunities that are there before us.

However the most surprising thing of all; despite the shut doors, fears, and doubts Jesus appears and speaks his words of peace. And this one who brings peace is not some airy fairy, distant and uncaring being. He is not an abstract idea, created in the pages of a book written by some novelist. No, this is the one and only God who came into our world to help humanity out of the dire situation it had gotten itself into. He came to do what was necessary for us to be brought back into God's family.

To do this he had to suffer immensely; having nails smashed through his hands and feet and strung up on a cross to die: being punished by God for all our sin; so being totally forsaken by his Father, because of you and me: Then buried; presumably, never to be seen and known of any more.

 But now this one has arisen from the dead and appears in the midst of his disciples and to us also. God's own Son - comes into our closed world and says; Peace be with you! My Lord and my God - our Lord and our God has come - bringing peace: Bringing forgiveness of sins, peace of mind and wholeness to us all. Our Lord Jesus comes bringing peace between God and us. Bringing forgiveness for all that is wrong in our lives. Restoring our relationship with God both here and for in eternity. But as well as that, he brings healing for our guilt, hurts, sorrows and desolation that we experience in this world of ours.

So yes, what joy is now ours? Our crucified and risen Lord Jesus now assures us of lasting peace and eternal life with himself in heaven. And that peace is ours now in the midst of our doubts and our troubles; our  hurts and our sorrows. We now know that he is here with us and for us even when the whole world seems to be against us. Because this Jesus who died and rose again for us and is truly God, assures us of this, we can go forward with every confidence and every hope. We know that everything will work out for good, because that is what he promises.

 But Lord Jesus does not leave it there; for again he speaks his word - Peace be with you! a second time. Then he sends his people out into the world around them. He sends us out with that peace. He says; As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. He sends us out to proclaim the same message that Jesus came with: The Kingdom of God has broken into our world. God has come into our sin-filled world to save us all; to assure us all of the forgiveness of sins and of the lasting peace which Jesus has accomplished through his death and resurrection. We are sent to let the people around us know this Good News. We are sent to point others to Jesus - our Lord and Saviour.

 Remember he sends us with and despite our fears, doubts, troubles and inadequacies. He knows our weaknesses and failures and yet he sends us out. It is with all of these issues at work in lives that we are still able to bring God's offer of forgiveness. To tell them that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection their sins are forgiven. As Jesus, God's Son, left his glory to take on our humanity and to live in our world - to identify with and be able to relate to people in a broken and hurting world; so we too are now sent out with our weaknesses, fears and troubles to relate to others around us who are also hurting and in trouble. We do so with the same message that has touched and changed our lives, bringing peace and wholeness. We go, recognising that this Jesus and his message of peace, changes our relationship with the people around us, even those who are giving us a hard time, and it changes the way we will treat and deal with them. Because forgiveness, salvation and peace is ours, we will want to impart and pass that on to them also.

 Here also remember that we do not go out there alone. Jesus reminds us that we too have received the Holy Spirit. As we speak of what we know and have heard from God's Word, the Bible - through preaching, reading and study of it, we have the assurance that the Holy Spirit will be at work through that message. The same God who told us that Jesus would die and rise again three days later, is the same God who has promised that the Holy Spirit would be at work in and through the Good News that we speak with our inadequacies and fears

. All the while our Lord continually speaks his word; Peace be with you!
And that word lives with us and goes with us to those around us. So we are able to go forward and face life with confidence. We can live and share the great message that our Lord has died and risen again for our salvation; forgiveness is ours and ours to proclaim in Jesus name.

This certainly is Good News. This is Easter going on every day of our life. Life thereby has surely changed - even though we still live in a frail and hurting world. Because of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus and his word of peace, we too are surely left to say; My Lord and my God!
To him belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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